YOUR FACE AMONG MANY, A BLOSSOM
Your face among many, a blossom.
Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.
The sun can’t understand why it can’t
open the buds of the parking meters.
Some people worry they don’t have talent.
Given a name, who isn’t a masterpiece?
A perfect self-portrait of what they’re becoming?
Talent, the worst superstition of all.
That lullaby you sing to your voodoo doll
at bedtime, to let her know she’s special
when, in fact, she’s blind. Talent.
That estranged mix of an eclipse and an oilslick
that isn’t sure of its standing in life.
Sensible shoes wishing they had wings on their heels.
The redundant navigator of mountain streams
that would have found their own way to the river
all by themselves. You ask if I think you have talent.
To me that’s like a flower asking
if I think it will ever come to bloom,
a star wondering if it’s shining or not,
a sea uncertain of its own waves and weather.
And I say, your eyes do, your ears do, your mouth has,
these birch-trees, those starlings, that tree, those rocks,
these rags of last year’s flowers do, but not you.
On the day of creation when God exhausted herself
using up the leftovers of her inspiration
so as not to let anything go to waste, she pinched the noses
of a few sacred clowns and instead of
breathing life into their lungs, she opened their throats
and poured a special esoteric elixir of talent,
the mother of all oceanic love potions
that ever played favourites with a select few
among everyone she’d ever given birth to,
out of her mouth into theirs, such that like her
all they had to do, they were so talented,
was give the word. Say be. And it was.
Because the moment you ask if you have something,
you’ve already lost it. Like space or time or mind,
talent isn’t possessed. It’s made manifest spontaneously.
Do you see the ruby throated hummingbirds
in a last duel with the thorns
of the locust trees in blossom,
one drawing blood, the other, first honey?
Behind every river making its way to the sea
stands the cornerstone of a mountain
buried under an avalanche
it brought down upon itself
like the winter solstice
between the dolmens of Stonehenge,
just as every drop of water is a lost key,
the Rosetta stone of a nameless grave in the rain
that can still speak fluently
the mother-tongue of the dead language
that buried oviparous metaphors
like oxymoronic dragons in cosmic eggs,
a coincidence of contradictory birds and snakes
the highs and the lows, made whole again.
Asking me if you’ve got talent is like
a nebula light years across asking me if it’s got stars.
Do the candles wish they were fireflies?
Do you write with your eyes or your ears?
And if you’re asking me if you’ve got
the bit, the spit, the spurs, the stirrups
to ride a wild, white-winged horse in a rodeo
without being thrown off, I’d say
the most seasoned saddle of all
is to ride bareback along the Milky Way in summer
and see for yourself if you can make it as far
as Altair in Aquila or the Deneb in the Swan.
And then realize, if you can’t, the real star
of the show all along was the rodeo clown
who rescues the riders when they’re down and out
by living dangerously on the horns of a dilemma
he had to make his own to spare the hero
from any further injury that might come
from taking anything too seriously.
And don’t canter as if you had talent
you can put your trust in like a reliable lie.
Risk everything on one leap of the fence.
Assume you’re a genius and fly.
You sweep the stars under your prayer rug
and then come and ask me if you’re a good housekeeper.
You want to know if your third eye is glass
or real crystal, something from the depression era,
and I turn it circumspectly in the light
and focus it on the sun and the moon
and few oddball stars nearby,
and I can see where you’ve being crying a lot
and missed a spot that makes things perfectly clear.
Talent might polish the mirror of the Hubble Telescope
to get rid of the smear of the Andromeda Galaxy,
to rub a hundred billion stars out
for the sake of appearances, but genius
sees through every drop of rain that falls
like an eye of its own through a broken windowpane
it’s just thrown the moon through like a lunatic
at the reflection of its own face
on the waterless pond of its own seeing
to make waves just to see itself as it is
warped like space and time
by the crazy wisdom of the circus mirrors
that are always in tears of laughter.
And this by the merest of inclinations
to have a good chuckle at the expense
of the straight-faced paradigms
trying to get a fix on their shining as if
they were measuring the nearest distance
the fireflies approach earth at apogee by parallax.
Talent may well be the architectural blueprint
of the underlying infrastructure of the chrysalis,
but it’s the worm that crawls
into whatever house of transformation,
whatever zodiac squatting on the outskirts
of whatever shantytown gerry-mandered out of scraps,
salvage, cast offs, discarded parts of mechanical experience
looking for a new purpose in life,
and flies out the other end with mandalas
not starmaps on its wings.
Talent takes note of the traffic signs
long before it’s walked the road.
Until you realize through the eyes in your blood
with a passion that won’t go back the way it came,
like the fish hook of the moon
torn out of the fleshy part of your heart the wrong way,
or revoke the names of the things you’ve given birth to
crossbreeding with a fertile imagination
when things get dark and narrow
in a black hole where the shadows of sacred fires
dance to the picture-music of hallowed cave paintings,
until you realize how meaningless and futile
the most significant things in life are
you’ll never know the playful intensity
of being so wholly absorbed into your own creation
there’s no afterbirth of inspiration to cast off
like a shadow of the mind upon the light.
If you’re still looking for your own face
behind the veils you lift
like the mirages of mediocrity
in the breathless splendour
of the restless mirrors of reality
where you drink from your own reflection
like the false idol of an image
you’ve kissed the feet of before.
Be assured. If you’re still down on your knees
before this simulacrum of seeing
you’re just peeking through the keyhole
of a little door into a bigger world
that isn’t sleepwalking through the same dream you are.
If you’ve got talent. And why not?
When everything else including you does,
except when you’re a fish out of water
dying of thirst beside a fresh water lake
asking the stars if you can swim as well as they do.
If so. Why do you keep it to yourself
like some secret contagious disease
you haven’t had time to spread around yet?
If you’ve got talent, don’t judge
the quality of the wine by asking someone
to appraise the worth of the jewels
that open like the eyes of rubies and rhinestones,
like fierce Venutian diamonds in the twilight
of empty, golden goblets mortally wounded
by the going down of the sun
striking its colours like pennants of surrender.
But if you’ve ever known the delirious oblivion
of the protean genius or juno of a child
then your cup runneth over like the moon at full.
You drink from the cups
of the wild gypsy poppies
with the crazy lunar slips of the tongue
they keep whispering like the sacred syllable
of a cataba worm at the bottom of a bottle
like an unforgiving message for help in your ear.
And it’s perfectly clear
from the either/or lens of your orbiting telescope
the stars aren’t waiting for an answer
to all their big first magnitude questions,
but if you were to say anything, say it
like the ghost of a breath from the past,
a shadow in passing
that makes the candle flames tremble
at a seance of sensitive souls and murky mediums
in a delirium of stars giving rise
to a dancer in a dream riding her own thermals
in the cooling of an August afternoon like a red-tailed hawk
winging it on the fly for the euphoric high of it,
for the pure joy and solitude
in the miscreant freedom of it
from the wounded wild rose in her heart
like blood and wine and the miracle of mirages
in a bottled hourglass of quicksand.
Down to the lees of moonset
in your own bottomless skull
where you can read the black tea leaves for yourself
like the spinal vertebrae of books on a library shelf
to see if you’re ever going to make it into print or not
like a fossil in the Burgess Shale
of a lonely species of heart and mind
that was one of a kind from beginning to end.
Of course, you’re talented. Show me a star
or a stagestruck flower in the green room that isn’t.
But talent isn’t just another antidotal snake serum
you pour like iodine onto to the burn
of a lightning strike you can’t mend any other way.
And genius, what can anybody say?
You won’t find it out trying to stake a claim
to the insights it’s been panning for
like nuggets of harvest gold
from the blue ore of the new moon’s dark potential.
from the mindstreams that have been turning over
the reflections of the green mountains
they’ve been walking beside all day
like stones in the flow of an ongoing conversation
that might have something hidden under them
like stars that size of misfit diamonds
that ring the craters of the meteor impacts
that don’t enlighten anything
that’s bigger than your eyes
could ever dream of seeing.
And what new species of intensely creative visual life
might have come of them in the aftermath
by adapting that poem you’re holding in your hand
like the neck of a dying swan song
to a whole new biosphere of picture-music
where merely to breathe the stars in and out
even at these lower altitudes
in these valleys of the fireflies
the storm passed over out of consideration
for their blood ties to the lightning,
were to sign your name in the first edition
of a cosmic guest book with the wingspan
of an immensely talented constellation
working on the first draft of a brilliant myth of origin
that says as it will be at the end,
so it was in the beginning
and is now in the coming of nightfall to a stranger.